Scarlet Thompson has led the fundraising and marketing efforts at The Arc of Jefferson County, Alabama's largest provider of services to the intellectually and developmentally disabled, for nearly four years. She'll leave the organization later this month to join Civitan International, where she will assume the role of Executive Vice President.

I watched closely as my teenager with autism gathered his stuffed animals around the television, so they could hear a story about the newest character coming to Sesame Street.

"She's like me boys," Cade said, referring to Julia the muppet.

It was pleasing to hear that finally, after all this time, there would be a character on a children's show who somewhat mirrored my extraordinary son.  I celebrated this milestone, knowing what awareness it will bring for families like mine.  I also reflected on the effort and advocacy it took to get us all to this place – where autism could be embraced.

The introduction of Julia is just one example of what we all can do together to help the world see ability beyond disability this National Autism Awareness month. Can you imagine all the people behind the scenes of Sesame Street who took Julia from a dream to reality?

There are several ways you can join forces with others to make a difference in the lives of families who have loved ones with autism. Groups like The Arc and the Autism Society of America have local chapters that need advocates to not only volunteer in various capacities, but also speak out to lawmakers who make decisions on critical policies.  Call these groups' local offices to see how you can help.

There are also service organizations across the globe where you can make an impact.  Civitan International supports people with developmental disabilities through various acts of kindness, but their proceeds also go to life-changing research on autism and other conditions. Join the Civitan club in your community to ensure families like yours and mine are encouraged.

Overall, keep celebrating and making others aware of accomplishments like Julia’s arrival to Sesame Street. Getting the word out about why all of it matters makes a difference. It increases knowledge, and knowledge leads to inclusion.